Knowing that I would be essentially doubling my class load while losing half my prep time meant that I launched this school year with several plans in place to maximize my chances of success and minimize my stress load.

I feel like I’m at a point in my career where I can handle this. I’ve been teaching long enough, and teaching these subjects at this school long enough, that I at least have most of my unit/lesson plans under my belt. I am, of course, constantly tweaking things and Advanced Drama will always be its own beast since it changes every term; but overall I’m teaching things I’ve taught before.

I have good TAs. During my plan time I get the papers ready and tab them with instructions, and my TAs know to check the basket first thing and make copies.

I’ve been using rubrics for years and having students grade themselves and others with the same scales/qualities I grade them on. If nothing else, I appreciate it as a way to check whether I’m on track while scoring such incredibly subjective areas. (Turns out, I’m really good at it. I’m typically within one point of the average score of all of their peers.)

Anyway, I recently developed the “feedback” worksheets you can see above. Essentially, after every performance the students pass around paper with their names at the top and each student fills out the scores they gave that person. At the end, each student has a paper that breaks down every score in every category from every kid who saw him/her perform. They average those, compare those scores to their self score and to my scores for them, and do the final tallying for the total score. Saves me (or my TAs) a bunch of tallying, gives each kid immediate and specific feedback, and it gives them a practical way to check their self-perception (one of the many hard-to-quantify state theater standards). Plus they’re doing math! I was fairly appalled at how hard was for most of them to handle adding a column of numbers and calculating an average.

So, I’m saving myself time and improving data gathering/management like a good teacher. I also solved one of the banes of my professional existence with wall pockets:

Each class has a place to turn in papers, a place I keep graded papers until they are handed back, and a place for the papers for those who are absent. I hand out the worksheet, jot the name of the absentee on the leftover copy, and stick it in the basket for that kid to get when they get back.

I did have to order more pockets with the addition of my middle school classes. I also had to put the “turn in” basket for those classes on the bottom because sixth graders are short, man.

All of this is on top of my pre-existing organization systems. My film class equipment is tagged and stored in color-coded bins, each color assigned to a director so even if they don’t come into the class knowing who Tarantino and Kurosawa are, they’re using their names all term. (And also Anderson and Wright, because I decided I was allowed to be biased.)

The problem I didn’t expect this year and haven’t figured out how to solve, though, is that I’m bored. I’m busy, yes, but I’m also bored. Teaching’s not challenging anymore. Even when it’s stripping me of my personal life (evidenced for example by my typing this on a Friday night in the breakfast room of a hotel outside of Vail while kids practice their speech pieces all around me), I’m just… here. Doing my job, going through the motions. I’m not sure what to do about that.

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